Alcatel Says 'Oui' to GPON

Just in time for some serious RBOC consideration, Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) has announced it has a new GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) solution for fiber-to-the-premises networks (see Alcatel Intros GPON OLT and Sources: RBOCs Are Gawking at GPON).

The company introduced the 7342 Intelligent Services Access Manager (ISAM) product today and says the gear is based on the latest FSAN GPON standards. "We're introducing the first fully standards-compliant GPON into the access market," says Matt James, senior manager for access product marketing at Alcatel.

Alcatel says its gear is based on the latest GPON Encapsulation Method implementation of the FSAN G.984 standard specifications. This is a roundabout way of saying Alcatel's 7342, on paper, provides the biggest bandwidth pipes of any GPON solution on the market now.

James says the Alcatel device will support 64 subscribers per PON with 2.4-Gbit/s downstream and 1.2-Gbit/s upstream at a distance of up to 20 kilometers. A single shelf of gear will support 2,304 subscribers, Alcatel says.

By way of comparison, Optical Solutions Inc.'s FiberPath optical line terminals (OLTs) support a bandwidth of 1.2-Gbit/s downstream and 622-Mbit/s upstream. And, while Alcatel's new gear will be ready for lab evaluations in the second half of this year, Optical Solutions's GPON gear is up and running in small carrier networks all over the U.S. (see Optical Solutions Wins GPON Contract, Optical Solutions Secures GPON Contract, and Optical Solutions Wins GPON Contract ).

"Worldwide, we have two customers taking our GPON products into their labs," James says.

But Alcatel's advantage is in its size, depth, installed base, and market power -- not necessarily speeds, feeds, and time to market. So by adding the 7342 GPON solution to its arsenal, the company rounds out its portfolio, which includes the 7330 IP DSLAM, the 7320 central office-based DSLAM, and the 7340 BPON FTTP OLT.

Last year the company decided not to continue with its 7201 Litespan digital loop carrier product development -- a nod to several large carriers' march toward IP-based access networks (see Alcatel Cancels New Litespan DLC).

But what's the big carrier appeal of Alcatel's latest product? Like Motorola Inc.'s (NYSE: MOT) announced deal inside Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Alcatel has highlighted the ability to introduce GPON into BPON networks. The 7342 GPON technology, in fact, is said to be able to work within the same network, central office, and chassis as Alcatel's BPON solutions (see Moto Gets a Piece of Verizon FTTP).

As it rolls out this new product, Alcatel finds itself front-and-center in some of the world's largest access network makeovers going on right now. And the impetus behind all this advancement is the demand for IP applications such as IPTV (see IPTV vs Me-Too TV).

"IPTV represents a solution that's superior to what cable companies are offering," James says. "When looking at IPTV, it’s a network transformation and the access network is where the rubber meets the road."

The road, as it were, is at the Broadband World Forum in Yokohama, Japan this week, as Alcatel is showing off the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) TV IPTV software platform by shuttling video content over its 7342 GPON gear, its edge routers, and its Ethernet services switches (see Alcatel Demos Triple-Play in Japan). The demo is said to show off the Microsoft IPTV features, which include instant channel changing and the ability to pause and rewind live TV.

Alcatel says it's developed its own suite of customer premise equipment, or ONTs (optical network terminals). Customers can connect analog telephony and digital data equipment. On the network side, the ONTs can be connected to traditional Class 5 telephone networks, or softswitches using either H.248 or SIP.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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